Defund the Police, Disparate impact, Family Instability, George Floyd, Gun Control, Leftism, Lockdown Orders, Marxism, Non-Pharmaceutical interventions, Police Bias, Police Homicides, Regressive Policy, Rent Controls, School Discipline, Shelter at Home, Unintended Consequences, Wage Floors, Welfare State, Work Disincentives
The policies foisted upon the country by the Left always hurt those constituencies they think they’ll help, and they backfire in very predictable ways. There are too many instances of that truism to recount, but just a couple of examples follow.
Economic Perils of Precaution
We can start with the interminable non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) imposed in many states during the pandemic. These included shelter-at-home orders, limits on public gatherings, school closures, and the like. These lockdown measures were more severe in so-called blue states controlled by the Democrat Party. But NPIs were a policy failure and did little to stem the pandemic or excess deaths. Moreover, they resulted in the closure of many businesses and massive job losses. The economic burden fell especially hard on low wage earners, as the following chart shows:
For high earners (the red line), the employment decline at the start of the pandemic was small and relatively brief. Less fortunate were those earning under $27,000 annually (the blue line). They suffered a much larger initial decline in employment and had a continuing loss of almost 24% of jobs. While those who lost jobs ultimately received enhanced unemployment compensation and other benefits, the idleness and loss of work experience inflicted long-term damage to health, psyches, and future prospects. Thus, the party with pretensions of championing the cause of the downtrodden was pleased to intervene with policies that undercut the working poor.
But Some Precautions Are “Racist”
Another prominent case in which leftists have harmed those for whom they claim to advocate is the effort to “defund the police”. Low income and minority populations do not favor such a policy because they understand the value of protection against criminal elements who victimize their communities. The residents of these communities are most at risk from gangland violence and homicide. Furthermore, nearly all “victims” of police homicides are armed, and police homicides are closely associated with crime. And again, the sad fact is that crime is heavily concentrated in minority neighborhoods. The statistics do not support assertions of bias in policing. Obviously, these citizens have taken notice that the riots cheered on by the Left have been destructive to their communities.
Crime has spiked in Minneapolis and elsewhere since last summer, when George Floyd’s death sparked interest in the “defund the police” mantra promoted by the Left. And there followed a reduction in police budgets of about 5.2% in aggregate in the 50 largest cities in the country (though not all of these cities made cuts). Moreover, the effectiveness of policing has been undercut more broadly by the substantial legal risk now facing officers who earnestly attempt to enforce the law, as well as more restrictive use-of-force policies.
These changes are an unambiguous disaster for so many good people having the misfortune to live in high-crime areas. And the political disaster is starting to sink in among Democrats, who are already attempting to change the narrative (and see here). It’s pretty transparent that the “black lives matter” dialectic appeals to Democrats primarily as a selling point of convenience, and not so much when there’s actual blood in the streets.
Only the Obvious Matters
Destructive lockdowns and efforts to “defund the police” are just two examples of a perverse phenomenon. It’s well known to keen observers of the history of Marxism in action that it usually victimizes its presumed beneficiaries. That dynamic is at play under school discipline policies that seek to avoid “disparate impacts” on minority students, leaving other minority school children in disruptive learning environments; gun control initiatives making it difficult for minority residents and businesses to protect themselves; rent controls leading to a deteriorating stock of low-cost housing; wage floors causing low-skilled workers to lose hours, benefits, and jobs; energy policies with regressive impacts on household budgets; tax policies destroying incentives for job creation; and a welfare state creating disincentives to work and promoting family instability. This list goes on and on.
The difficulty leftists have in coming to grips with these unintended consequences is that they can’t see past first-order effects. Like spoiled children, they grasp only the ostensible benefits of their demands. And like bad parents, they behave as if to seek approval of the most spoiled among their presumed charges.